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Issue 19 Articles

Sprint / Netformx logoThe Secret to Accelerating Time-to-Market for Managed Services

We discussed the challenges service providers face as they deploy complex managed services including cloud-based applications with Ittai Bareket, Chief Executive Officer at Netformx Inc. In addition, Mike Fitz, Vice President, Solution Engineering and Wireline BU at Sprint, talked with us about how Sprint “designs-to-win” by automating their requirements-to-order processes

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Michael Fitz, VP, Solution Engineering & Wireline, Sprint
Michael Fitz, VP, Solution Engineering & Wireline, Sprint
Ittai Bareket, Chief Executive Officer, Netformx Inc.
Ittai Bareket, Chief Executive Officer, Netformx Inc.

Michael Fitz is Vice President of Solution Engineering and the Wireline Business Unit within the Sales and Distribution organization of Sprint. Mr. Fitz manages a nationwide team of over 600 sales engineers who are responsible for selling, designing, implementing, and supporting solutions for Sprint’s business customers, from wireless data applications to complex wireline solutions. In addition, Mr. Fitz is responsible for Sprint’s wireline business unit profit and loss. In this role he oversees the various functions responsible for selling, designing, building, and servicing Sprint’s wireline product portfolio. Mr. Fitz has 16 years of experience with Sprint and has been awarded several annual executive leadership and performance awards.

As Netformx CEO since 2005, Mr. Bareket has provided strategic leadership that helps service providers, systems integrators, and equipment vendors increase profitability by creating and selling the information, communications, and technology solutions that power business. Netformx is the leader in collaborative requirements-to-order software solutions for enterprise technology and has over 600 customers in more than 75 countries. Previously Mr. Bareket held positions at Mercury Interactive Corporation (now HP), including President of Mercury Interactive Japan K.K. and General Manager for Japan and Korea.

Q: Ittai, you are working with service provider customers around the globe. Is it still as complicated for them as it was the last time we spoke?
IB A: From what I see, it is getting more complicated. Service providers are acquiring data centers and cloud assets and moving up the stack into new business areas. Cloud deployment models tend to be quite complex and therefore more challenging to execute. This is in part because more functions are outside the service provider’s control with an increased reliance on best-of-breed partners.

Q: Mike, Sprint has been proactive in offering enterprises converged services such as cloud-based unified communication services, bring your own device (BYOD) management for wireless services, and MPLS managed services. What is driving the uptake in demand?
MF A: Industry CIOs are more intimately involved in their company’s lines of business. In order to focus their energies on higher value services, they outsource traditional IT services to partners like Sprint. So, instead of managing data centers, they are now driving revenue by providing value-added applications and higher value services to their external and internal customers.

Q: It sounds like a pretty big transition for CIOs.
MF A: In the last 10 to 20 years CIOs have faced many transitions. They started out running mainframes, then focused on enabling employees (first with hardware and then with software), then running services such as email in their data centers, then evolving to systems like ERP. These were challenging transitions that they successfully navigated. Today CIOs are going through another transition, the result of a natural evolution of technology and a logical next step.

Q: How has Sprint handled the business and technical complexities of moving to value added services?
MF A: Rather than build new solutions ourselves, we have partnered with best-of-breed companies who supplement our expertise and enable us to move quickly. For example, we partner with CSC for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), software providers for Software as a Service (SaaS), and Cisco for Sprint Complete Collaboration (UC&C). Our customers want us to provide a unified service front. So we give them a single account team, a single bill, and one-stop-shop customer service experience, while at the technical level our partners execute the services. Our customers get the best of both worlds—a single point of contact and best-of-breed services.

Q: Weren’t all-IP networks supposed to simplify things? Has the complexity just moved up to higher layers?
MF A: Absolutely. We have been moving up the stack, building additional layers of abstraction, for some time. It is true from a technical perspective, but also from the perspective of what CIOs outsource. Initially you would build your network, then you could outsource it to Sprint. Then you could outsource the running of your data center so you could focus on managing data center hardware. Then hardware management was outsourced, so you could focus on software. Now software is outsourced with SaaS and CIOs can instead focus on managing lines of business.

Requirements to Order

Q: Netformx can reduce time-to-market. Isn’t that key to success?
IB A: In the past, since service providers owned the network, it was difficult to compete with them on telephony. Now, the barrier to entry is so low that integrators can set up small data centers and start selling Unified Communications.

If a service provider requires days to create a design for a customer when the integrator responds in hours, they are likely to lose the deal. With Netformx, service providers can be more efficient with 60-90% faster designs and proposal generation and thus be more competitive and win more business.

Q: Mike, how did Sprint do presales designs in the past?
MF A: Five years ago, before we had Netformx, network designs were done with spreadsheets, Visio diagrams, and folders on shared drives. There were even separate spreadsheets for each product and service, and lots of personal methods.
With these manual methods customer care could make a change because of an outage, but the engineers wouldn’t know about it. Or the engineer might not update a spreadsheet to reflect what was actually deployed. You can imagine what a costly and error-prone mess that created for us. Yet this is how most operators still run their business.

Q: What did Sprint do to increase sales and speed time-to-market?
MF A: As a sales organization, our goal is to sell. But to sell successfully and build strong customer relationships, we must create winning designs, work hand-in-hand with the customer, and generate compelling proposals. And the implementation needs to go smoothly, too.

Thanks to Netformx, we are a leader in automating the presales process. Automation is a huge differentiator for us because we can do real-time design, provisioning, and workflow. We can respond to the needs of our customers faster and be more efficient by creating error-free designs, do more of them, and therefore generate more revenue, i.e., get it done, get it done right, and move on to the next deal.

The benefits of using Netformx are easy to quantify and this helps me obtain budget approval for support or enhancements. I can easily document the increased productivity for our teams since we create error-free designs and implementations and eliminate costly reworking of them.

We experience better collaboration with a large contingent of engineers who support the sales team. With today’s complex scenarios, multiple resources need to collaborate in the design because they know the account or the product or because they need to review the design or check quality assurance. Now we can have a variety of resources engage on different parts of the solution and know that the final result will be accurate.

Q: How have you changed your presales behavior to foster automation?
MF A: As sales people we have two important goals: 1.) Sell our solutions, and 2.) Design-to-win. We deal with many variables, such as the customer requirements, existing and future networks, complex technology choices, a multitude of service choices, and project phases that change over time. Our job is to sort through that variability to create compelling designs and proposals that enable us to win the deal.

But our presales system has to provide our network operations teams and provisioning systems error-free designs to ensure successful implementations. No order fallouts, no crank-backs, no manual fixes, and no complaints to customer support.

By automating the complex presales process with Netformx, we are more productive as sales engineers and are facilitating automation to downstream systems.

Q: How do you deal with the dichotomy of “market-of-one” customization while at the same time providing economies of scale?
MF A: In this business, no two customers are alike in the services they buy, how they combine them to create a solution, how they are configured, or the number or location of devices. The complex designs we create are unique to each customer. On the other hand, companies come to Sprint because we can provide economies of scale and have well-honed expertise.

Netformx is the most important glue we have to enable us to efficiently customize every deal and yet create designs that flow through our processes in a highly automated way. That is what allows us to implement, run, and scale our business.

Q: Ittai, do presales teams impact service delivery?
IB A: Mike has already spoken about Sprint’s design-to-win solution, in which Netformx is instrumental to transform customer enterprise technology requirements into validated designs and winning proposals. Our analysis and customer case studies have demonstrated our customers win more business with a 70% average productivity increase.

Another very important function is service delivery. Because services providers are so big and complex, they have traditionally struggled in this area. Adding new dimensions of cloud computing and data centers and the complexity of involving third parties, makes it even more challenging. Sprint leverages our solution not only in design-to-win, but also to deliver the design to the implementation teams so they can accurately and quickly implement it. By creating the right solutions and delivering them successfully the first time, service providers delight and retain their customers resulting in a demonstrable 100% increase in customer satisfaction.

Q: Mike, what impact does your presales innovation have on your customers?
MF A: When we work with our customers to create a proposal we need to understand their current networks and services and their plans. Then we iterate with “what-if” variations, add or subtract regions, and evaluate one-step as well as staged project plans. Our customers need to receive proposals quickly and review the options visually and in detail so they can make informed decisions. Those reviews typically result in new ideas and additional options that need to be translated quickly into revised designs.

Since we store network designs in a database, when customers make changes to their networks or their managed services, anybody in the process—whether sales engineering, Tier 2 support, customer care, or implementation—can pull up the existing design, know it is current, make the required change, and rest assured the change will follow the workflow and be implemented properly. We can do it practically in real-time. Our customers really appreciate that.

Q: How is the increasing popularity of cloud services impacting your business?
MF A: We have been prescient in this area since we’ve already incorporated network-to-network interfaces and workflows to support MPLS extranets, where different functionality resides in different networks. That enables us to turn up networks faster, which is what everyone wants. These capabilities are table stakes for cloud computing, so we are well positioned there. Plus our cloud services portfolio is growing rapidly, working with partners to deploy SaaS and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and preparing to launch IaaS for our business customers soon.

Q: What is your vision for enterprise services and the requirements-to-order process?
MF A: I think there will be ongoing abstraction to higher value services further up the value chain, such as SaaS. This is where Sprint and its customers are going. We already offer unified communications and collaboration, Mobile Device Management and bring your own device management tools, and the portfolio will only expand. That means solutions such as Netformx will continue to evolve so we can further automate and build customized value-added services with scale and efficiency.

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